Touchstone Books, Hardcover, 9781451626858, 416pp.
Publication Date: January 10, 2012
When novice nun Joanna Stafford learns her rebel cousin is condemned by King Henry VIII to be burned at the stake, she makes the decision to break the sacred rule of enclosure and run away from her Dominican Order in Dartford to stand at her cousin's side.
Arrested for interfering with king's justice, Joanna, along with her father, Sir Richard Stafford, is sent to the Tower of London. Joanna's father is brutally tortured by Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester who leads the Catholic faction bent on saving England's monasteries from destruction. In order to save her father, Joanna must submit to Gardiner's will and become a pawn in the struggle between religious extremes. Gardiner forces Joanna to return to Dartford Priory with a mission: find the long hidden crown worn by Saxon King Athelstan in AD 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain. Gardiner believes the crown itself to possess a mystical power that will halt the Reformation.
Uncovering only dark betrayals and murder at Dartford, Joanna flees with Brother Edmund, a troubled young friar, and with time running out, their hunt for the crown leads them through royal castles, to Stonehenge, and finally to the tomb of the mysterious King Athelstan under Malmesbury Abbey. There Joanna learns the true secret of the crown, a secret tracing all the way back to Golgotha and the Relics of the Passion. Now, as Cromwell's army of destruction advances, Joanna must finally determine who to trust and how far she is willing to go to protect a way of life that she passionately loves.
“An engrossing thriller…[the] extensive historical research shines.” – Entertainment Weekly
“Part The Da Vinci Code, part The Other Boleyn Girl, it will keep you guessing until the very end!” – Woman’s Day, Book Pick of the Month
“Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical research throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal.” – O, The Oprah Magazine
“[An] inventive thriller…A captivating heroine, Stafford will have you eagerly following every step of her quest.” – Parade
“[A] captivating thriller.” – All You
“The right sort of action to lure fans of historical fiction: righteous nuns, evil bishops, real-world figures and a potential burning at the stake.” – Time Out New York
“When her cousin is condemned to death by King Henry VIII, daring young nun Joanna risks everything to be by her side.” – People Magazine
“History buffs will delight in the details interwoven in the story.” – Times Record News
“I’m loving ‘The Crown.’” – Redbook
“Bilyeau weaves her breathtaking story though a string of events to a pleasing conclusion while giving the reader a more thorough understanding of a complicated bit of history. Historical fiction as it should be.” – Florida Times-Union